Around The Yard: Dennis Bao

Returning to for a fourth season, "Around The Yard: Life As A Harvard Student-Athlete" explores life away from the playing fields for select Harvard student-athletes through their own first-person narrativeFor a full list of blog entries, click here.

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Dennis Bao
April 24, 2018

While many elements of my last three years at Harvard have come and gone, two things have remained constant: the alpine ski team and EC1010A. The ski team has been a rock I can lean on, a source of lifelong friends, and an opportunity to compete and train at the highest level in the sport I love. As far as 1010 goes, I took the class freshman fall and then have been a TF for the course the last two years.

These two constants overlapped on the first day of 1010 class this fall, when a wide-eyed freshman came up to me after lecture with a question regarding course logistics, and then, noticing the Harvard Skiing shirt I was wearing, asked “How are you able to both TF and play a sport?”. This question made me reflect upon how truly unique the Harvard student experience is, and particularly the Harvard student-athlete experience. During many times this can be incredibly easy to forget, caught up in the fray of job recruiting stresses, late nights doing endless problem sets and papers, and early morning lifts and practices. However, even these seemingly annoyances represent the beauty of being a student-athlete at Harvard: you can have your cake and eat it too.

This experience is not without sacrifices, but the ability to compete at the NCAA Division I level while simultaneously being afforded the opportunities and enriching experiences that come along with being a Harvard undergrad is rather incredible, even if often forgotten. Especially as a walk-on, this significance is not lost on me, and has meant that time spent on either side of the river is not only additive to my Harvard experience, but even often complementary, with activities done on one side of the river providing an escape from the stresses of time spent on the other. The unique logistical requirements of skiing at Harvard have in some ways been a blessing in disguise as a means to escape the Harvard bubble: during the season the team crosses the Massachusetts / New Hampshire border twice and trains for a couple hours by the time we sit down for our 11:00AM classes.

Another aspect of our time spent outside of athletics that I’ve found especially rewarding is the ability to actually help shape the experiences of other Harvard students. Whether it be in the classroom as a TF, volunteering, or serving as leaders in various student groups: we apply the teamwork and interpersonal skills so critical in our respective sports to other domains of our lives. While my days at Harvard may be numbered, the impact of these experiences will surely be indelible.